In the beginning of the season (though many seem to have forgotten about this part), the Kings were doing great and in solid playoff standings (even #1 in the entire NHL on and off for a while) and the Ducks were struggling to stay out of last place in the NHL. Then, Jonas Hiller (the Ducks’ #1 goaltender) started to steal games for the Ducks. The Ducks still weren’t playing well, but they were winning and climbing the standings steadily. The Kings went through a rough patch and found themselves low in the standings and in a place where their fans were questioning their certainty that their team would be in the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2011.
Now that most teams in the NHL have 20 games or less remaining in the season, the Kings are in 5th place (just one point behind the 4th place Coyotes and they have a game in hand). They’re 5 points ahead of the 11th place Ducks (only 2 points out of the playoffs, but only 3 points ahead of 13th place). Jonas Hiller is injured (with symptoms of vertigo) and Ducks GM Bob Murray has already signed Ray Emery and traded the former backup (Curtis McElhinney) for Dan Ellis, who lost to the Wild in overtime last night. If I were the Ducks, I’d be making sure Hiller is seeing every specialist out there. I know a few people who suffer from vertigo and one way or another, the end of their symptoms is almost always the same. They see the right specialist or take the right medication and they’re back to normal until something else sets off their vertigo. I don’t know how the Ducks are handling the situation with Hiller, but he’s clearly still not healthy, which has already been very bad for the team. Hiller seems to be getting a bit more of the credit for the Ducks’ success earlier, but what good is that if he’s not able to play and the Ducks are sitting at home in the post-season again? The western conference remains tight. Only 5 points separates 4th place from 10th. The Kings have won three games in a row, in spite of giving up their 4-0 lead in today’s game and only beating the Avalanche by one goal. They’ve won 11 of their last 15 games and got points in 3 of the 4 they lost.
I find it interesting that the two southern California teams haven’t done well at the same time this season. I think it would be great for southern California hockey to have the Kings and the Ducks in the playoffs at the same time, but it looks like 2011 won’t be the year for that.
In spite of the struggling Anaheim team, somehow GM Bob Murray got a four year extension to his contract yesterday (an act that almost made one of my friends who’s a fan of the Ducks cry). I haven’t talked to anyone who believes Murray has been doing a good job as the General Manager of the Ducks, but clearly those most important in the decision believe in him. I think this will bring more mediocre hockey to the Ducks fans in the near future and the owners will wish they’d found a new GM, but time will tell. The trade deadline is coming up Monday at noon (PT), but so far the most shocking transaction was the Ducks resigning Murray. It doesn’t have to do with a player directly, but this development could have a longer impact on the team than most of the trade deadline moves on their teams. Many trade deadline moves result in a player transaction that only affects a team until the end of the playoffs that year. Very few of the moves affect a team for four years.